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Economy May Falter, But Economics and Finance Studies Remain Strong

The graduate program in applied economics is experiencing steady growth, according to Theodore Byrley, associate professor and chair of the Economics and Finance Department, and program director Victor Kasper, associate professor. More than 50 students are working toward their master’s degrees, by the department’s count.

Economics can be defined as the social science that studies, describes, and analyzes the social relations of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Pure economics is almost exclusively theoretical, and theoretical economists hypothesize about any or all aspects of economic activity, using models to investigate and compare concepts.

“Our program focuses on applied economics and finance as opposed to ‘pure’ economic theory,” said Kasper. “Applied economics draws heavily on economic theories, using those theories to explore real problems or answer specific questions.”

Buffalo State students concentrate in either public policy or finance, and can select among many career options, from stockbroker to public policy adviser. Many earn the designation of chartered financial analyst, or CFA, a well-regarded credential required for many positions in the economics and finance world.

Kasper, who has directed the 10-year-old program for the last two years, said some students are enrolled in classes, while others are working on their capstone master’s thesis or project. The department has increased its evening course offerings from two to four to accommodate both full-time and part-time students.

“We are getting more inquiries—and earlier inquiries—than ever before,” said Byrley. “We think it’s because the word about our program is getting out.”

As students graduate and pursue careers or doctoral work, more people hear about the unique character of the program. In Byrley’s view, among its major strengths are the students’ master’s theses and projects. Not only do they require students to demonstrate mastery of complex material and organized, logical thinking; they also demonstrate to potential employers the breadth, depth, and writing expertise of the students.

For example, Awatif Abu-Ahmed, ’08, received the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award this year for her investigation of foreign aid and its impact on economic growth in developing countries. Kasper served as her thesis adviser.

Another strength of the program is the high degree of interaction between faculty members and students. Each student develops his or her thesis or project in conjunction with a principal adviser. “Just defining the question can take a considerable period of time,” said Byrley, “and it takes just as long to come up with a thesis topic that will address the question.”

Another of the program’s assets, according to Kasper, is that the department’s faculty members represent a wide spectrum of economic thought across ideologies and paradigms. As a result, students can draw on a number of theoretical approaches when asked to address a specific problem. That ability to address a specific issue is also characteristic of the program’s applied nature.